A recent article over on Financial Executives on Why Finance and Procurement Need to Collaborate For Success made some very good points …
The article in question, which noted that how companies approach expense management will become a top priority with the economy heading into uncertain times summarized an interview with Matthew Smith, CFO & CoFounder of finetune, a full service expense management firm focussed on select complex categories (such as uniform rental, waste & recycling, pest control, energy & utilities, and security) for large clients. In addition to the baseline assessment, sourcing, implementation, and ongoing management (which many BuyDesk operations will do), they also do regular auditing, which is key to ensuring you get what you pay for because, as Matthew said, where the rubber meets the road in expense management is what happens after the contract is signed.
Matthew believes that expense management does need to be its own thing and that there has to be a coordinating element between the affected functions, which always includes Procurement (which is responsible for placing the order and managing the contract) and Finance (for paying the bill) and then the department(s) that are using the goods or services being procured. Especially since the vendors will give up a lot in the negotiations, and then do their best to get it all back through change orders and off contract-purchases of items not covered under the contract. In addition, analytics is becoming critical, but most organizations have bad data. However, without the necessary expertise, the data won’t be clean and the right calculations can’t be done. Procurement can identify the good data and Finance can identify the key analysis that needs to be done. (Not ChatGPT, which is hallucinating and getting all those bad answers and producing false information. Matthew’s words, but the doctor couldn’t agree more.) Furthermore, without a good understanding of the entire situation from multiple sides, you don’t know when incentive are good or bad.
Expense management is a key area where Finance and Procurement needs to collaborate because it takes both departments to prevent overspend, and the article was a really great deep dive in this respect, but it’s not the only area. Working capital management is also key. Managing expenses is a great start, but the goal should be improved working capital management. If both departments work together, and with other organizational departments, to appropriately predict demand and utilization, and optimize payment terms, then the organization can do accurate cash-flow forecasting and working capital can be optimized. And that can truly only happen when both departments collaborate.